Lifelong Learners 01

Why it is Crucial for Educators to be Lifelong Learners

by Belinda Howard
25 May 2020

The future of work is an everchanging landscape – what it looked like 10 years ago is nothing to what it looks like today. Much like with machine learning and other technological innovations, the field of education is changing so fast that techniques, skills and technologies become outdated in less than a decade. That is why being a lifelong learner plays a crucial role in the education process. By frequently assessing and redesigning your teacher toolkit to integrate new tools and strategies educators can enhance their students' learning development.

According to Gerhard Fischer, director of the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Design at the University of Colorado, "Lifelong learning is an essential challenge for inventing the future of our societies; it is a necessity rather than a luxury to be considered … It is a mindset and a habit for people to acquire.” By making lifelong learning part and parcel of who we are as educators we can provide better educational opportunities and support for our young people.

Those who are lifelong learners have the following 3 characteristics:

1. The Ability to Overcome Challenges

Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts to create the lightbulb. ‘Harry Potter’ was rejected 12 times. It can be hard hitting that wall. Nevertheless, mistakes and challenges are treated as part of the learning process for those that are longlife learners. They do not fail – they reflect and try again. Every mistake gives them more information to find a way to solve their problem. In a classroom, we never know what types of questions students may ask or how they may be feeling. We change and adapt to our environment to support our students. When we find a particularly difficult child we ask ourselves ‘why’ and educate ourselves on understanding where the student is up to and the strategies to better support them. 

2. Innovate to Improve Learning Outcomes

I was always told the best professional development can be found in the classroom next door. As educators we are built to be collaborators. We put our heads together to find creative teaching strategies and build our teaching toolkit by observing those around us. 

During my time at my previous school, the Principal was a huge believer in collaboration throughout the college. Our professional development days were built by the teaching staff. We would rotate through classrooms being shown a new teaching strategy that they were doing and achieving success in. We had the opportunity to discuss how this could be embedded into our classroom and importantly, time to reflect on our teaching practice to innovate and improve our student’s learning outcomes.

3. Use Modelling as a Teaching Tool

By setting an example for our students of the importance of life long learning we can encourage our young people to never stop developing their knowledge and skills. This can be done by sharing experiences of working through the learning process.
In my classroom I have a huge poster of why you should never stop learning up on the wall for all to see.

You Should Never Stop Learning (A3 Poster)

I always ask my students to write down the answer to three simple questions at the end of last lesson of the week.

    1. What did I learn this week? 
    2. What do I want to learn next week? 
    3. Where can I learn it?

I write my answers to these questions up on the board. Last week I wrote:

    1. I learnt about how the stock market works.
    2. I want to learn about how to create a tic tok to impress my daughter.

Before I even wrote the third I had 8 students in my class offer to help and I wrote each of their names down next to 3 and made an appointment with them all during a lunch break for them to teach me.

My enthusiasm as a lifelong learner and as an educator are interlinked and it is crucial for me to pass on my love of information to the next generation. To do this, I need to ensure that I am learning all the time – how to relate to my students, how to best support my students and of course remember that some of the best teachers can be in the classroom next door or better yet – behind a desk right in from of you.

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